In Retrospect…

Well since I received such valuable feedback on both my posts I though it would only be fair that I responded to the comments and observations made by the readers. I tried to restrict myself to a comment but my response was rather long and thus I have put it up as a post.

First off, I do acknowledge that perhaps my comments were a bit harsh and I let my emotions get the best of me but when it comes to religion I do get swept away at times. However, care will be taken in the future.

Now then, let’s really get into it. Before I proceed to present my point of view I would appeal that while reading this you keep an open mind and do not get caught up with small details and try to look at the bigger picture. Though the criticism I got was well constructed and broadened my span of thinking as well, I feel some of it was aimed at issues totally besides the point I was trying to make.

In any case let me try and explain how I feel and why I said what I said. Fiza, Ibaad and Kamal repeatedly made the point about freedom of choice and how what they do as Muslims is none of my business. I completely agree. It is not any of my business and at no point in time was it a personal attack. But I do not think I implied that people attending club night have corrupt souls and cannot change… that is where Fiza is completely mistaken and I did not imply any such thing. Such a declaration would be against everything taught by Islam.

Perhaps we could set aside our Western ideals for just a bit. Freedom of choice is the concept I would like to tackle. Everyone is born with freedom of choice with respect to every aspect of their lives. But at the moment I am only taking into account the religious aspect as it is this aspect which shapes all other aspects of your life (or at least it should.)

Now then, so you are born with the freedom to choose whatever religious path you wish to and somewhere down the line you chose Islam I am assuming. Now that you have made your choice, you should stick by it. You have enforced your freedom of choice so now respect the choice that you have made. Islam is not a religion from which you can pick and choose from… “Ok, I like this bit about Islam but I don’t agree with this one so I am not going to follow it and that’s my choice so step off”

Once you identify yourself as a Muslim how can you promote actions and deeds prohibited by none other than God. You have no right to alter Islam and suggest that you can because that is between you and God. Ms. Saleem if you were to follow only the Quran-let’s not even talk about the Hadith and various Tafseers-then you would not even look a non-mahram male in the eye let alone dance with him at a club.
(I am referring to Surah Noor Chapter 24, Ayat 31:

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss..)

So which freedom of choice are you talking about? The freedom to distort Islam to suit your own desires? …Unfortunately that is the Islam that we are all practicing today. I am not claiming to be a perfect Muslim either but at least I can acknowledge my mistakes and that is a step in the right direction. Let me reinforce that no one and no Muslim has the freedom to pick and choose which parts of Islam he or she wishes to follow. I further quote straight from the Holy Quran, Surah Bakrah Chapter 2, Ayat 208 :

O ye who believe! Enter into Islam completely; and follow not the footsteps of the evil one; for he is to you an avowed enemy.

And yet we do not enter completely. We prefer to pick and choose what is easy for us and when someone tries to raise a voice we shut them up with claims of freedom of choice. But we should not forget is that one day it really will only be between us and God and at that point there will be no turning back and all regrets will be wasted.

Turning now to Mr. Kamal. An Islamic society is like a support system. Everybody helps each other to do good and to shun evil. When an individual does something evil and it does not affect society then that is his personal failure, but when society is affected by the evil then he is at fault and should be reprimanded. The Quran repeatedly refers to us as Muslim Brethren and thus it is only natural for Muslims to be concerned about each other as that is how it has been ordained by God. As Muslims we are ambassadors of what is right and should shun all that is not.

If an impressionable Muslim youth is exposed to other Muslims indulging in activities in Pakistan which are prohibited by Islam he would be more encouraged to do so too, than he would be by any other medium as these are his people and from his religion. Drinking and dancing is neither a part of our culture nor our religion. Therefore I am distressed and disappointed that fellow Muslims feel it is okay to do so in general but that’s not what my post was about. It was exactly about what you mentioned; Respect.

Just because you are not partaking in the Hajj this year does not mean that you do not respect the pilgrimage and endorse behavior which is not supported by your religion. These parties happen every year and yes I do feel they are wrong but I am more upset this year as I feel that the Hajj should have precedence over the New Year for these Muslims. They should respect the Hajj and not commit acts prohibited by Islam. That’s my point. By doing so they are disrespecting the Holy Pilgrimage and all that it stands for i.e. sacrifice.

I hope I have clarified my position and not offended anyone in the process.

12 thoughts on “In Retrospect…

  1. I’ll respond to some specific points above:

    “Now then, so you are born with the freedom to choose whatever religious path you wish to and somewhere down the line you chose Islam I am assuming.”

    This is an entirely different issue altogether. The honest truth of the matter is, more than 99% of us follow the religion we happen to be born into – that’s really what decides what we are. Chances that if you were born into a Christian family, for example, you would follow Christianity. I have a hard time believing that all the non-Muslims in the world are somehow “unlucky” or “unfortunate” to not be born into Muslim families. Anyone who has half a brain realizes this. Any person from any religion can claim him or herself to be divinely fortunate to be born into that religion, and can give you 100 reasons why their religion is “better” than the others. The religion prescribed to us (and which most of us will follow our whole lives) is just a matter of chance. To say otherwise is extremely presumptuous, not to mention naive.

    So let me follow up with a question – do you think that every non-Muslim is unlucky, will go to hell, or both? This concept is closely related to the freedom of choice in religion that we’re discussing.

    – – –

    “Now that you have made your choice, you should stick by it. You have enforced your freedom of choice so now respect the choice that you have made. Islam is not a religion from which you can pick and choose from.”

    I have a serious problem with someone telling someone else how they should or should not follow their religion. There are a lot of people (myself included) who believe that the Quran, and other religious texts, were written for a specific time and place and not as an absolute guide for all time. I can give you several examples of specific things in the religion that most reasonable people do not consider relevant today – one being the four wives clause. I don’t see people walking around with four wives – most people realize that what is said about four wives was intended for a specific period of time and in response to wars that were claiming the lives of men. In the society of the time, it was dangerous for a woman to not have male figure attached to her, and it makes sense that a woman could marry a man for protection and such if her husband was killed, and so on. Yet, in our (“Muslim”) society today, a man taking more than one wife is not looked on very well. Why?

    There are a lot of people who take a sensible approach to religion by seeing things in context rather than blindly following it verbatim. These people believe that God has given them a brain for a reason – to truly understand what has been revealed and to be sensible about their life philosophy. Things have changed in the last few decades – we are no longer living in a society that is as male-dominated as before, and women have the opportunity (that they didn’t before, mind you) to really pursue professional life, and so on. If these women choose to express themselves (as men have been doing for years) by choosing what to wear and being confident and proud, that is their business.

    I don’t need to tell you that many in the west, for example, see the veil as a sign of separation and detachment, which ultimately (justifiably or not) creates a professional barrier for women in terms of interacting with their peers and business colleagues. My points with these examples is – society is not the same as it was in the past, and we cannot expect women to conform to standards that many people (and most women) consider to be backward and biased in light of the circumstances we live in today. If men really have such a big problem dealing with women who choose not to cover themselves as prescribed in the past, they should perhaps consider their own behavior and thoughts first. After all, if you consider yourself a law-abiding, “pure” Muslim man, you can choose to not let that effect you – right?

  2. After reading your response I am rather surprised by your rudeness, ignorance and completely hollow arguments.

    Maybe if you were to read more closely next time you won’t waste time arguing about details which have no relevance to the topic under discussion.

    You have picked out extreme examples such as the four wives clause to try and somehow prove your totally absurd point.

    Look…you don’t want to believe in the Quran; that’s your failure. I stressed that I’m not telling you what to do-I’m just telling you like it is.

    When talking about choosing a religion, you completely missed the point. You said that anyone with half a brain would understand certain things…it is quite obvious that you are not even blessed with that.

    Yes…many people are born into Islam and are only muslim by name. That is why i stressed on “choosing” Islam. For only if you study Islam in depth and make the conscious choice that this is the right religion will you practice it properly and not debate about the limits set out for you by God. It is quite obvoius you are yet to make this choice.

    Your question about non-muslims. Again if you had any common sense and thought before you wrote you would realize that Heaven & Hell is only something which can be judged by God. The People of the Book are greatly respected in Islam and i sincerely hope that practicing Christians and Jews do get heaven. You on the other hand seem to believe that you deserve heaven just because you were born into Islam…even though you think it is a religion of the past and your modifications are (God forgive me) better than God’s Supreme Knowledge.

    And it can bother you as much as you want…I will not agree that muslims are allowed to change religion according to their various desires. And if you can’t follow the Quran then don’t drag others with you. It is absolutey preposterous that you- a creature fron the most humble of origins and created by God- can dare to claim that he knows better than God. Absolutely disgusting and pathetic…

    As far as your final comment is concerned, again if you used your God-given eyes to read properly next time ( or have you found a way to modify those as well?) and your below-average comprehensive skills perhaps you would have noticed that i clearly stated that i dont consider myself a perfect muslim and blamed myself for the current state of muslims as well.

    Yes…muslim should keep their thoughts and actions in control too…but that still doesnt mean women can defy the Quran either.

    I really hope the next time you decide to response to a piece which involves religion you are sensitive enough to use that brain of yours that you pride yourself on to actually study the religion first. Otherwise you just come off as an ignorant oaf.

    God did give us a brain for a reason. It wasn’t for insulting people’s religious beliefs (especially when it is obvoius they are completely clueless). It was for understanding different points of view and following what they understood as the right path after their research. To make things easier for us he blessed us with the Prophet (PBUH) as an example. Clearly you don’t consider him to be that and i pity you for it…

  3. “After reading your response I am rather surprised by your rudeness, ignorance and completely hollow arguments.”
    Welcome to the club. I’m sorry to see that you haven’t answered some of the implicit and explicit questions posed in my response, so I will clearly spell them out below:

    1. “The People of the Book are greatly respected in Islam and I sincerely hope that practicing Christians and Jews do get heaven.”

    Meaning what? If one was to be born or choose to be a Hindu, they wouldn’t? I know that you personally, of course, have no say in who goes to heaven or fell, just like you have no say in whether a “scantly clad woman”, or someone who parties on new year’s eve, will go to heaven or hell. But, I would still like to know what your personal thoughts on this are. Please be so kind as to answer my question: Do you think that people who are not “Of the Book” as you said will go to heaven?

    2. “Yes…many people are born into Islam and are only muslim by name. That is why i stressed on “choosing” Islam. For only if you study Islam in depth and make the conscious choice that this is the right religion will you practice it properly and not debate about the limits set out for you by God. It is quite obvoius you are yet to make this choice.”

    This seems to imply that if I study Islam in depth, I will have to adopt all of it unconditionally, and if not, that I haven’t studied it enough? Do you think there is an option to study it in depth, and decide that it is not the religion one chooses to follow? I suppose what I am really asking is this: Tell me, hypothetically, what you think would have happened if you were born in a Hindu dominated state to a devoutly religious Hindu family? Now, for argument’s sake, let’s not haggle over the details. My question is: If you were born into a Hindu family, do you honestly believe that you had a fair chance of becoming a Muslim at some stage in your life, and what do you think the chances are that you would do so (out of 100%)?

    3. “You on the other hand seem to believe that you deserve heaven just because you were born into Islam…even though you think it is a religion of the past and your modifications are (God forgive me) better than God’s Supreme Knowledge.”

    I don’t believe I deserve heaven because I was born into Islam. I try and live my life simply without imposing harm on others or interfering with their happiness or peace of mind. I’m not proposing “modifications” – rather, I am saying that I feel that it is counter-productive in today’s day and age to blindly adhere to every single detail written, when to me, it is obvious that some of the things were written for a specific time and in response to specific circumstances. I picked an extreme example about four wives to illustrate this very point. I picked it exactly because it was extreme, and when I asked you about it you didn’t answer my question. Do you believe it is alright to have more than one wife in the times we live in today?

    4. “Yes…muslim should keep their thoughts and actions in control too…but that still doesnt mean women can defy the Quran either.”

    Well, perhaps people (read: men) should fix whatever is wrong with themselves first, and then start giving advice to the rest of the community. My point with that example is that a lot of men say they are “tempted” by women, and by extension, that it is the woman and not them who is somehow supposed to be responsible for their “impure” thoughts and actions. People around the world are able to control their “primal instincts”, while we are somehow ashamed by them and are eager to pass on the blame for these instincts to someone else. Anyway, my questions posed to you above are far more important, so let’s focus on those please.

  4. To start off, I would like to say that in no way am I a scholar of Islam, I believe in Islam primarily because I was born a Muslim and because later in life I chose to look into it beyond the point in my life where my parents stopped telling me to pray five times a day.

    Either way, with the number of Tafseers, strong and weak Hadith and even differing points of view within the Qur’an (note the eventual prohibition of intoxicants instead of outright rejection which if one were to read without context would give different views as to in which context, if at all, intoxication is allowed for the Muslim), all religion to me is a matter of interpretation.

    Note how I say, ‘to me’. I agree with Kamal that our brains were given to us by God for a reason. As such, there is a Hadith (I forget the exact wording and I paraphrase here) that one must use God’s blessings and not reject the easing of duties that he prescribes for man (this was in context of how one should pray shortened prayer while travelling even though he/she has the time/inclination to pray the full prayer because otherwise one is rejecting a ‘gift’ of God). I believe the same applies when one fails to use his/her brains to interpret the Qur’an for the capacity to interpret was given to us by The Almighty.

    Now on to the concept of women wearing veils or covering their bodies: whether I believe it is the right thing to do or not, does not matter. Whether I feel that any woman should defy the Qur’an, again that is a matter that is between her and God. Since I am not a scholar, I refuse to pass judgement on any man or woman who, for all I know, might have looked into every nook and corner of this religion before chosing to mingle with the opposite sex and before deciding how to do this.

    Another case in point for this matter is the injunction on music. Music is theoretically Haram for the Muslim, yet it was allowed in the time of the Prophet at the very least for children on Eid day (and according to some Hadith at the very least in the presence of adults). Yet, it is ENTIRELY disallowed by our very own Islamic clergy today. Yet, a scholar and former singer/artist Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) has borrowed from various Islamic traditions, Hadith and Tafseer to argue that music is not Haram (for this one may want to visit Cat Steven’s website and read his articles on the subject).

    What are we to make of all this? Nothing other than the fact that conventional opinion can, and often is, wrong. As such, instead of anger at each other, we should understand each other’s point of view and promote the fact that despite small (or even some major differences), Muslims still all believe in the basic tenets of the Faith and yet have the capacity to choose what they wish to practise or believe (whether that is right or wrong should not matter to another person because as I said that is a matter or personal interpretation). If one still believes that the other is wrong, the Prophet has left us amazing examples of how we should bring that person back to the light (with reason rather than dogma, and a soft voice rather than anger or even pity) and let them be if they fail to see your point of view. For the right path should win out eventually.

    As such, I am disappointed with the turn the discourse above has taken. Let us not reject each other’s point of view but accept that regardless of the fact that we might believe in one religion there are countless interpretations, some maybe more right than others and some less right than others but the final decision maker is none other than God.

    Either way, with the number of Tafseers, strong and weak Hadith and even differing points of view within the Qur’an (note the eventual prohibition of intoxicants instead of outright rejection which if one were to read without context would give different views as to in which context, if at all, intoxication is allowed for the Muslim), all religion to me is a matter of interpretation.

  5. Thank you Ali B. for your wonderful response. You have no idea how happy i was when i read your response and its indeed thans to muslims like you that Islam is spreading at the rapid pace that it is these days.

    Actually after my response, Kamal took it upon himself to be rude and thus illicited such a response from me. As you can probably tell from the above comments, he is unrelenting in his efforts. I too agree that the conversation has taken an ugly turn. Therefore, first of all my apologies to Kamal. I understandably get rather upset when fellow muslims feel they can belie the Quran. I particularly agree with your advice of letting people be if they do not agree with what is right, as it will eventually win in the end.

    Mr. Kamal, in light of the above comments here are your answers :

    1. It is clear that you are worried about the fate of non-muslims and there is nothing wrong with that. Once again I must tell you that I am not allowed to judge who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. My personal opinions have no relevance as they are flawed in front of the Wisdom of God and I feel you are just looking to create more oppurtunities for pointless argument.

    2. Again for some reason you are concerned with my personal life and decisions (or rather my hypothetical life). Please read the question you have posted again. Is it just me or is this not a completely irrelavent and absurd question. You want to argure just for the sake of arguing. Instead of debating about a fantasy world why don’t we talk about the reality. I just thank God that i was born into a muslim family and was exposed to Islam since my birth. I thank God that somewhere during my life I decided to study Islam in depth and realized what a great treasure it was and started practicing it properly.

    Furthermore if one studies Islam in depth, with the right intentions, and an open mind…He will truly recognize it as the true religion. If he does not then that is truly his misfortune and I pray that God forgives them and brings them to the straight path at some point in their lives.

    3. From your question it is rather obvious that you are not clear on the rule of four wives in Islam and it greatly disturbs you for some reason.

    In Surah Nisa (4:3), God says ” Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one,…”

    Maulana Abdullah Yousuf Ali whose tafseer of the Quran is greatly revered interprets this ayat in the following way: “The unrestricted number of wives in the Times of Ignorance was now strictly restricted to four, provided you could treat them with perfect equality in material things as well as in affection and inmaterial things. As this condition is most difficult to fulfill I understand the recommendation to be towards monogamy.”

    Surely you will agree Kamal that it is absolutely impossible for a human being to treat two individuals, let alone four, with perfect equality. Thus the Quran does not encourage irresponsible behaviour as you are suggesting at any point in time; be it the past or the present. It subtlely clarifies the rule to you and I hope you understand the true essence of this ayat. I quote your “God gave us brains” theory and suggest you apply it when reading the Quran and try to uncover the meaning of each ayat before you decide to challenge it.

    Furthermore, this ayat was revealed after the Battle of Uhud, when there were many widows and orphaned women as a result of the battle. God judges not only by our deeds but also by our intentions. Many of the Prophets companions married more than once to provide support to these women and not for wordly desires. If a muslims intentions are clean, he has nothing to fear but God.

    4. This was not much of a question but yet another comment which seemed to be aimed at starting another argument. I agree that men must control this insticts as well but women must also dress as prescribed by Islam. As i mentioned in my post, Islam is a support system. Everyone should uphold their personal responsibilty and display the highest level of ethical and moral standards. Neither men nor women are exempt. Both must adhere to Islam. When a woman does not dress modestly she is at fault. When a man on the street checks her out, he is equally at fault. Both have disobeyed the Quran. But God is All-Merciful and if they ask Him for forgiveness and correct their mistakes Salvation is surely theirs.

    But pointing the finger is not how we will resolve our differences. Everyone has to make an effort. Lastly, it is important that we all continously study our religion…there is no doubht that Islam holds all the answers we need…we just have to make the effort and search for them before making needless accusations and raising irrelavent arguments. May God grant us all the straight path. InshAllah.

  6. Points 1 & 2:

    I see you’ve decided to completly ignore my first two questions, on the grounds that “My personal opinions have no relevance as they are flawed in front of the Wisdom of God…”.

    It’s ironic that our current correspondance started because you expressed this same “personal opinion” (about Club Night, scantly clad women, and other things). To qoute what you posted earlier: “Ms. Saleem if you were to follow only the Quran-let’s not even talk about the Hadith and various Tafseers-then you would not even look a non-mahram male in the eye let alone dance with him at a club.” This is your interpretation, your personal opinion (since you are not God). Muslim women around the world have chosen to adopt a slightly more open minded lifestyle in recent years – this is their choice, their interpretation, and their opinion.

    Correct me if I’m mistaken – I assume that, because you consider yourself lucky to be born into a Muslim family, you would consider those not born into a Muslim family to be not lucky (i.e unlucky)? This is consistent with what I hear all the time from people who are constantly complaining about how others are not following Islam and the Quran. Everytime I ask “Well what if you were born a Hindu”, they tell me “I am lucky to be born into a Muslim family”.

    With all due respect, please consider for a second that there is a strong possibility that if you were born into another religon, you may never have adopted Islam. The same way you are condemning others not from “the book” because they indulge in a lot of the things you find contrary to God’s commandments, people from other religons are condemning you from their own religious perspective. This kind of thinking is hardly constructive, and it is really this kind of absolute black-and-white mentality that has resulted in a lot of the problems evident in our world today.

    If you were a Hindu, I’m sure you wouldn’t appreciate someone telling you that you’re disobeying God by drinking or whatever else it is you may be doing. The same way, I don’t think anyone appreciates being told that when they dress consistent with modern day society in a way that they feel comfortable, they are somehow disobeying God, tempting men, or being immoral.

    Many people feel that the way forward in the world we live in (and for us as a Muslim society) is to accept the fact that each religon and each religious person has his or her own set of beliefs (mostly inherited) and look at what our religons have in common instead of condemning others from any religon for their personal choices that have no harmful impact on another human being. Do you agree with me here?

    Point 3:

    I am well aware what the roots of the 4 wives clause is, as I mentioned them myself earlier. You mentioned “Maulana Abdullah Yousuf Ali” and used his interpretation (NOTE: INTERPRETATION) of what the Quran says to bring what was in the Quran into a modern context.

    What is there to say that there are not other scholars and teachers who have their own interpretations of other things? There are many female scholars of Islam who choose not to follow the strict dress code you prescribed above – are you saying that all of them are guilty of disobeying the Quran? Like your own response proves, many aspects of religon as a function of interpretation, or what interpretation you CHOOSE to follow.

    Point 4:

    “There is no doubt that Islam holds all the answers we need”.

    Ask someone from another religon, and I’m sure they will express some doubt – of course derived from their own religious perspective.

    – – – – –


    There are common strands in each religon: do not steal, do not cheat, do not harm another, etc. If we are do impose some kind of moral compass on society, these are what we should focus on, rather than on absolute details that vary widely from religon to religon and indeed within religon. I don’t need to tell you about the differences in how different Muslims (Shias, Sunnis, etc.) practice their faith. You obviously believe that your religon and sub-division is the best. You’re perfectly entitled to this opinion, provided you can respect that others feel just as strongly about their own religious and personal convictions.

    No one likes to be criticized or condemned when they are living what, from their perspective, is a life consistent with their pure intentations and religious beliefs.

  7. Note to Admins: I’m sorry if this post appears somehow removed from this blog’s theme. The truth is I think both Salauddin and I feel strongly about our respective arguments, which I believe are relevant to Pakistan today.

    While I can certainly appreciate Salahuddin’s concerns (derived from his own religious interpretations), I feel equally strongly that this kind of fundamentalist** thinking is counterproductive for a country like Pakistan that should be looking to incorporate itself peacefully not only with the rest of the world but within itself. One needs to only leave the confines of our 97% Muslim country to realize that people with their own personal set of beliefs and interpretations, while not the same as with ours, are not immoral, confused or going to hell.

    Islam is a tolerant religon, and yet people seem to believe that the entire population of this planet, with the exception of those who share their beliefs (though excluding those in all rival sects), are unlucky, condemned to hell, or a combination of the the above. This is what I have a problem with.

    ** The definition of “religious fundamentalism” is “an attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of religious principles.”

  8. I was rather amused by your last comment due to the following reaons:

    A) After failing to prove your point through sound argument you decided to label me a “Fundamentalist”

    B) You also conveniently assumed that I hail from a particular religious sect

    C) You did not let go of the Hindu question

    Having considered your comments and indeed our debate, i realize that even though i am willing to consider things from your point of view, you seem to be rather rigid in your beliefs. Thus there is no point in further trying to explain to you my point of view.

    I also have come to the conclusion that we do not hold the Quran in the same light. I consider it to be the Supreme Book of Knowledge, whereas you feel that God blessed you with knowledge superior to that in the Quran.

    Lastly, i dont think launching personal attacks and attributing people who do not share your beliefs to varoius religious sects is the way forward, and this is the approach which you seem to be following.

    The way forward is to try and understand each others beliefs and not promote sectarian conflict as you are trying to do.

    I wish you the best Kamal…and hope that you find the answers to the questions you are looking for soon.

    But if you expect me to agree with you that the Quran is wrong… dont hold your breath… Good Luck!

  9. I said “fundamentalist thinking”, and defined it right afterwards (“an attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of religious principles”). The word itself does not necessarily have negative connotations, and I feel that it quite fairly describes the kinds of points made in your post. Your responses have stressed again and again that you favor a strict and literal adherence to your interpretation of the Quran. Again, correct me if I am wrong? The reason the word “fundamentalist” has gotten a negative connotation in the recent past is that people are trying to impose these principles on others, rather than not focusing on adhering to them. The fallacies of taking this attitude is what I have focused on in my posts.

    I have heard what you have to say – sadly, our difference of opinion stems from one central point, which is that you believe not only that your particular interpretation of Islam is correct, you expect others to follow that same interpretation, and condemn them when they do not. I never assumed you were from any particular sect, but rather that you were from A sect (which all of us are, because we have specific beliefs). Earlier, your post condemned someone for looking a non-mehram in the eye, and going dancing – this represents a different view and interpretation of Islam, and your post demonstrated that you were not open to it. What is a sect if not a group of people with a different set of beliefs and opinions? For formality’s sake, the definition of a sect is: “. A group of people forming a distinct unit within a larger group by virtue of certain beliefs or practices”.

    As for my supposed lack of sound argument, the point I was trying to get across was clearly capitalized for everyone’s benefit. You can read it again if you’d like. The only response you’ve seemed to give me is that you won’t “agree with [me] that the Quran is wrong”. I never said anything about the Quran being wrong – my point is that there are different interpretations of the Quran, and people interpret and live their lives differently. By your last line in the above comment, you’ve shown that you consider a different interpretation from someone the equivalent of them saying that the Quran is “wrong”. In other words, someone with a different opinion from you is guilty of blasphemy. You are not only presuming that you know the best about religion, but also that others have somehow not studied their own religion and reached their own conclusions.

    Furthermore, throughout our correspondence you’ve still continued to completely ignore my point about our religion being a large function of what we’re born into and exposed to.

    I haven’t left the Hindu question, and you haven’t answered it, because if you were to think for a second about how different your life would be if you were born into another religion, you would realize that your chances of adopting Islam would have been highly unlikely.

    Now, I’d like to emphasize that I am not even going to get into whether Islam is right or not, that’s not the point here. I am simply saying this: as a follower of a religion that teaches tolerance, it is counterproductive to condemn people with a different set of religious beliefs: especially in light of the fact that most of us adopt the religious principles we are born into or are exposed to most. Now, I asked you this in my previous post and you didn’t bother to respond – so I will ask you again. Is this something you agree with, or not?

  10. Well Kamal, i will try and keep this short so that we are not discussing ten different issues simultaneously.

    1) I do not believe that only my interpretation of Islam is correct. I also do beleive that i have stressed it time and again, you may check if you like, that i am not claiming i am a perfect muslim and that i am a 100% right.

    Once again, you have taken the liberty of making a number of assumptions e.g. “someone with a different opinion from you is guilty of blasphemy”. I would appreciate it if you did not take such liberties in the future as they hinder my hope for a healthy discussion.

    I will quote to you my view ” God’s purpose is eternal and His plan is Perfect, but man’s intelligence is limited at the very best. It varies from individual to inindividual based on his/her experience. If we take mankind collectively, from age to age, we realize that there is no finality in human interpretation. There is constant flux and change.”

    Thus i believe in progressive interpretation. To discuss and observe the Quran from various angles. We will obviously have different points of view as the difficulties which confront me may not be the ones that confront you, and we learn our best lessons when faced with adversity.

    I hope that you realize from the above, that we actually agree that people can have and indeed do have different interpretations of the teachings of Islam, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    2) In reference to your comment “Earlier, your post condemned someone for looking a non-mehram in the eye, and going dancing – this represents a different view and interpretation of Islam, and your post demonstrated that you were not open to it.”

    My friend, when i made this comment in my post, it was not regarding an interpretation of the quran. Rather it was the “transalation” of the Quran and that is why i provided the ayats so that everybody understands that this is not an interpretation but a rule laid out in black and white in the Quran. It is your challenging the Quran itself that bothers me.

    However if you truly believe that the ayats i quoted suggest otherwise( as they seem quite simple and straightforward to me) please do provide me with your justification.

    3) As far as the Hindu question is concerned, the answer is quite simple.

    Muslims believe in a Just God, a Fair God, a Merciful God, a Kind God. He is the very Perfection of all positive human attributes. When we say we are muslims we lay claim to the fact that we believe in God Aziz-un-Hakim( The Great; The Wise) and that He is the most Just Being.

    In the Quran, God reveals to us through a number of ayats that He shows everyone in the world the right path. Different people react to the Light in different ways. Some recognize it as the Truth and embrace Islam e.g. Cassius Clay-Mohammad Ali, Yousuf Islam-Cat Stevens, Sheikh Yousuf, Mohammad Yousuf, etc. whereas others may not be ready to forsake the beliefs they may have held since childhood.

    Therefore I have complete faith in God and that He shows the way to Hindus even. As we beleive in a Just God we should realize that He would not punish anyone unjustly. If i were born a Hindu, I have enough faith that when God showed me the Right path, and the common sense to study the religion, I would accept the truth which is Islam. But to argure over such a matter is a waste of time. Instead we should try and better ourselves as muslims considering that we are already.

    It all comes down to faith in the end my friend and how strongly we believe in what we do believe. Faith is the cornerstone of our religion and without a strong sense of it, we will waste too much of our lives in petty argument.

    4) Lastly i completely agree with you that it is counterproductive to condemn people with a different set of religious beliefs. I do not believe i did so at any point in time.

    I hope you now understand my position and that i have answered your questions sufficiently.

  11. I feel like we agree on some fundamental points, which I am glad to know. After reading this recent post, also I feel that a few of the points I made, while completely valid, were perhaps not necessary for the scope of our present discussion. A large part of my initial response was directed at some of the comments made in your earlier post – which I think you yourself realized were a bit harsh immediately afterwards.

    As a Pakistani citizen I am very concerned, as you and probably many of us also are, by the religion being hijacked and misused by religious extremists and those who, while not extremists in the traditional sense, are not tolerant of any other interpretations of Islam or religion but their own. In addition – for all the bad-mouthing we do about how the western world treats Muslims – I can say from firsthand experience that most minorities in our own backyard are treated far worse than Muslims in the US or the UK.

    In the increasingly connected world we live in, “Muslims” often project themselves as intolerant and aggressive, not only to other faiths but most often to those within their own faith. These were the concerns I was expressing in my post above – if indeed, as you’ve said, you are aware of and against this kind of behavior – then perhaps not all these points were necessary in this present discussion.

    Nevertheless, I feel that some of the basic questions I asked regarding the religion we adopt (one in particular, which we can fondly trademark as “The Hindu Question”) are important to keep in mind as one becomes immersed in one’s religion. It takes a very logical sequence of thought processes to realize that God with his infinite wisdom cannot have condemned a large population of the world to hell at birth – as, sadly, many of our religious “scholars” seem to believe today. I think that people from all religions who learn and become engrossed in their religion may often forget this fundamental point. I believe that keeping these basic and completely intuitive questions at the back of one’s mind helps one to become tolerant to different perspectives and to different faiths, and in the process learn a lot more about one’s own faith.

    I feel that a lot of our religious preachers today do not encourage youth to ask these basic “what if” questions, most often by equating these questions to blasphemy, or questioning God’s wisdom. As a consequence, some of these people become closed-minded and intolerant, which of course has a profoundly negative impact on Pakistani society. These preachers seem to forget that it is this very process of comparing and questioning their religion that has led many to convert to Islam in the first place. In my opinion, nothing can attest to the power of one’s faith than allowing people to question and debate the religion, and also study other religions, before these people choose to come back and adopt the faith they were born into.

    A Pakistani should not have to feel uncomfortable in a country just because his or her religious views or personal choices do not coincide exactly with those of others. My personal experience has shown me that many who are passionate about their religion, sadly, are often the quickest to condemn anyone with a different opinion. If we can avoid this common pitfall – and still be passionate and proud of our faith – I believe this will be a significant step in the right direction for our young and fragile country.

  12. Hi! While scrolling through blogs on Islam, your blog also popped up and i was rather impressed. Keep up the good work!

    I realize my comments may be a bit delayed as this post is quite old, but i had to express my feelings once i read the above dialogue.

    Kamal, i am what you have been looking for…i am a Hindu convert to Islam. I was born in Mumbai and currently reside in Karachi. I am afraid i will have to side completely with Salahuddin as far as the above discussion is concerned. God truly is Great, and it is also my belief that He Guides every soul towards the right path atleast once in their life-it is their choice as to how they react to it. I too found Islam in a remarkable way…

    When i went to London to pursue further studies, my room-mate was Islam. I did not care for Islam at the time and was a devout Hindu. Every day my roomie recited the Quran and i obviosly could hear him. The verses used to captivate me-the harmony that my soul searched for seemed to be found when i heard those verses, but i tried to ignore it-holding my hindu beliefs near.

    Once he moved out, i started feeling hollow and empty-as if something was missing from my life. I eventually bought my own copy of the Quran, and truly Kamal…there is no doubht that if one but reads the Quran he cannot deny that Islam is the perfection of all religion. Anyone who does so is denying the natural yearning of his soul to find the truth.

    Kamal, it is muslims like me, you and Salahuddin who can truly take Islam forward. Rather than arguing about trivial matters i believe we should have more faith in our religion. Kamal, muslims like you should serve as an example to others, but by questioning the Quran and Wisdom of God, you dont fulfill you service to God.

    I urge all muslims to stop engulfing themselves in trivial issues for the benefit of the greater good.”Why” questions are fine for your own research, but do not ridicule the Quran and other muslims in the process.

    Thanks and keep it up micropakistan!

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